Tea party group chief quits, cites in­ter­nal split

Austin American-Statesman - - THE SECOND FRONT - By Stephen Braun Former House Ma­jor­ity Leader Dick Armey, R-irv­ing, wouldn’t de­scribe his con­cerns with Free­dom Works.

WASHINGTON — Eased out with an $8 mil­lion pay­out pro­vided by an in­flu­en­tial Repub­li­can fundraiser, former GOP House Ma­jor­ity Leader Dick Armey said he has left the con­ser­va­tive tea party group Free­domWorks be­cause of an in­ter­nal split over the group’s di­rec­tion.

A con­fi­den­tial con­tract ob­tained by The As­so­ci­ated Press shows that Armey agreed in Septem­ber to re­sign from his role as chair­man of Washington-based Free­domWorks in ex­change for $8 mil­lion in con­sult­ing fees paid in an­nual $400,000 in­stall­ments. Dated Sept. 24, the con­tract spec­i­fies that Armey would re­sign his po­si­tion at both Free­domWorks and its sis­ter or­ga­ni­za­tion, the Free­domWorks Foun­da­tion, by the end of Novem­ber.

Ac­cord­ing to the con­tract, Armey’s con­sult­ing fees will be paid by Richard J. Stephen­son, a prom­i­nent fundraiser and founder and chair­man of the Can­cer Treat­ment Cen­ters of Amer­ica, a na­tional can­cer treat­ment net­work. Stephen­son is on the board of direc­tors of Free­domWorks.

Armey’s exit comes as a new sign of ac­ri­mony in con­ser­va­tive and Repub­li­can ranks as the party’s bruised lead­er­ship strug­gles with its Novem­ber elec­toral losses and un­cer­tainty over how to re­cast its prin­ci­ples and is­sues to com­pete with an as­cen­dant Demo­cratic Party.

Armey con­firmed his de­par­ture Tues­day, say­ing “my dif­fer­ences with Free­domWorks are a mat­ter of prin­ci­ple.” Armey said he made the de­ci­sion to quit Free­domWorks in Au­gust, but Stephen­son and other board mem­bers urged him not to leave un­til af­ter the Nov. 6 elec­tion. Stephen­son did not im­me­di­ately re­spond to calls for com­ment.

Armey would not de­scribe his spe­cific con­cerns, but he told Mother Jones mag­a­zine that the tea party group was mov­ing in an un­pro­duc­tive di­rec­tion. He also in­di­cated dis­sat­is­fac­tion with the Novem­ber elec­tion re­sults, in which sev­eral GOP can­di­dates sup­ported by Free­domWorks Su­per PAC do­na­tions were beaten by Demo­cratic Party ri­vals.

In an in­ter­nal Nov. 30 res­ig­na­tion memo pub­lished by Mother Jones, Armey told Free­domWorks CEO Matt Kibbe to re­move his “name, im­age and sig­na­ture” from all the group’s ma­te­ri­als and Web op­er­a­tions. Kibbe and other Free­domWorks of­fi­cials were not im­me­di­ately avail­able for com­ment.

Armey, who had been with the group since its 2004 found­ing, is a veteran Texas Repub­li­can Party po­lit­i­cal fig­ure who was in­ti­mately in­volved in the GOP’s con­ser­va­tive “Con­tract with Amer­ica” con­gres­sional move­ment in the 1990s. While Armey, 72, was Free­dom- Works’ co-chair­man and in­tel­lec­tual author­ity and at first, its pub­lic face, the younger Kibbe has been its most ac­tive of­fi­cial, ap­pear­ing at the group’s pub­lic gath­er­ings.

Free­domWorks flour­ished af­ter a wave of tea party House can­di­dates swept into of­fice in 2010, but de­spite spend­ing hun­dreds of thou­sands of dol­lars to back fa­vored GOP can­di­dates in Novem­ber, the group’s in­flu­ence ap­peared to wane at the polls. Among the GOP losers sup­ported by Free­domWorks in Novem­ber were Se­nate can­di­dates Josh Mandel in Ohio, Con­nie Mack in Florida and Richard Mour­dock in In­di­ana.

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